Monday, 22 May 2017

Stopped In Our Tracks

(With both boats - posted by Alan)
Retrospective post for Monday 22nd May

This should have been the day we started to make good progress on our trip back North with both boats - sadly, however, that did not happen.

The first problem of the day was not to be the worst, but even that was a bit alarming at the time.  Having worked through the first lock at Batchworth, we adopted a quite normal strategy of Cath going on ahead first towards the next on "Sickle", with David and I to close up the lock and follow on "Flamingo".  However, as soon as Cath was disappearing around the first bend, and we had barely set off, it became apparent that "Flamingo" was labouring heavily, and making almost zero progress.  With hindsight I should have tried to find somewhere to stop immediately, but I was mindful of a weir just above the lock that I did not want to get pulled on to, and almost immediately after that the very long line of permanently moored boats makes towpath access impossible.

This much plastic sheet doesn't stop a Lister HA2, but it almost stops the boat.
Had I realised just how bad things were, I would have tried to reverse up and risked a period stuck against the heavy outflow at the weir, but instead I tried to carry on, and was floundering at maybe half a mile an hour maximum, with the engine labouring, and almost no steering.  After what seemed an eternity, but was undoubtedly less than half a mile, we found enough of a gap in the moored boats to get our back end into, leaving the front across the cut.  Using my best skills both with a short shaft, and actually physically hanging off the counter and reaching under, I was able to make very little impact on what was obviously a pretty large prop foul.  Fortunately David who is both more agile and more persistent took over, and it was not long before a large transparent plastic "tarpaulin" was extracted.  It was large enough that I was very impressed that the engine, gearbox and prop had managed to overcome it enough to give us any propulsion at all.

Almost certainly the point at which David knew he was stuck in reverse.
Unfortunately there proved to be much else wrapped around the prop shaft, and, as is often the case, removing the ast ten percent took maybe ninety percent of the time.  David persisted, and eventually the best weapon was declared to be the double edged carving knife, which, because we are vegetarians, only comes out on such occasions.  By now of course Cath had winded "Sickle" and come back to work out what could possibly have happened to us!

So delayed by maybe an hour we set off again, but it wasn't long before we were in much more serious trouble.  Just two locks further on, as David attempted to stop "Sickle" in the lock, the gear lever stuck solidly in reverse, and could not be moved.  Quick diagnosis showed it to be the gearbox itself that was at fault, not any of the levers or linkages that operate it.  This was very disappointing, as it is part of the recently installed replacement engine.

The two levers joined by a spring have straightened more than they should.
With cover off the gearbox, we could see that the issue was that internal levers that allow selection of forward gear were throwing too far, so that instead of maintaining a slight angle to each other, they were locking out in a straight line.  The gearbox had been known before purchase to be capable of doing this, but we thought we understood the reasons, and that it was sorted before installation.  Obviously not, unfortunately.

We managed to get in touch with the seller by phone, and initially it was hoped to be a matter of adjustment.  However ever increasing adjustment failed to make the problem go away, and although we managed to get to the next lock, exactly the same "stuck in reverse" fail happened there.  By now I had convinced myself that continuing was neither sensible nor safe.  We had literally just passed a local boatyard with its own engineers, and I was lucky enough to persuade one to come and take a look that evening.

The part projecting 3 or 4mm right of the big brake band probably should not!
Whilst still not exactly sure of the nature of the failure, we convinced ourselves that a large part of the gear mechanism that should be retained on the main gearbox shaft, and should not be capable of much lateral motion along the shaft, was actually moving several millimetres.  This was clearly not right, and it was probably the excessive movement of these parts causing the levers to lock out in reverse to the point that selectinf forwards was no longer possible.

This was unlikely to be a quick canal-side fix, so attention had to turn first to practical matters.  I was supposed to be attending an important Doctor's appointment in Berkhamsted the next day, and then travelling for an evening out in London.  How could I still achieve this, given we had made almost no progress towards Berkhamsted?

Batchworth to Cassiobridge
Miles per boat: 2.5, Miles both boats: 4.9, Locks:4
Total Trip Miles: 2.0, Locks: 73

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